[Trowa is reclining comfortably on the sofa with Quatre fussing over him. One of his ankles is strapped up, and there are a few small bandages at artistic locations. A hospital bed has been wheeled into the middle of the room, and Heero is lying on it... at least, it's fairly safe to assume it's Heero. There's some spiky dark brown hair sticking out of the top of the body cast. Mel is absent-mindedly doodling little Ryougas all over one leg.]
ARDETH: Are you sure he can breathe in there?
CHRISTY: Yes. ...At least, I'm pretty sure... It's his own fault. We warned him.
MEL: Actually, we told him Ryouga would be easy. We warned him about everybody else. He can breathe, though, Dr. Tofu put a straw in for an airhole. See?
DUO: ...ooops. Is that what it's for? I've been pouring chicken soup down it.
MEL: Aaah, he's the Perfect Soldier. He'll be fine.
QUATRE: I made the soup!
MEL: Somebody get the hacksaw and a stomach pump.
[As various people start rescue efforts, Wufei strolls across to talk to Trowa.]
WUFEI: I see you got off lightly.
TROWA: Mousse wasn't much of a problem. I 'ducked' him right at the start. He could still throw knives, which made it interesting, but I'm used to Catherine. I had things under control until Ryouga exploded.
TROWA: That's what it looked like. Heero had him cornered and was about to chuck the water on him; then he saw a girl in a school uniform watching the fight, yelled "AKANE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" and blew up with green light.
WUFEI: Ah. Full Shishi Hokodan. That explains a lot.
TROWA: You know what that was?
WUFEI (holding up a volume of 'Ranma 1/2'): I did some background reading after you two left.
TROWA (taking the book): They had background info and didn't tell us?
WUFEI: Either it slipped their minds, or they didn't want to scare you into refusing the mission. I'm leaning towards the second theory. Next time they come up with a target, I'm checking Mel's bookshelves. --Oh, and if they try to send us after somebody called 'Benares' or 'Kaiyan Wang', gag Heero before he can say "Ninmu ryoukai". Please.
DEMON OF JUSTICE
"How in Krahana's hells did that happen?"
"Do I have to explain now, or can I get some sleep first?" Karthan growled without raising his head. "We're tired."
"At least tell me how you all ended up with the same wound," Uthmar insisted. "I know you weren't bleeding before Nataku scooped you up... and you and Wufei both have the same cuts, but no damage to your clothes."
Uthmar flicked a wary glance out the window. Nataku was sitting out in the square, leaning against the tree as usual, with a very strange hole in his armour. He'd gone and had a good look at it when the demon sat down. It looked as if the thick metal covering his left lower back had been wrenched apart, then half melted and pushed back into shape. The occasional flickering light or spark could be seen through the gaps where the metal didn't quite meet... and Karthan and Wufei were lying limp and exhausted on Cord's huge bed, having wounds in the exact same place bandaged.
I said 'cuts', but that's not quite right, the Champion thought uncomfortably. They've both got a webwork of bruises and blood-blisters there. It's like those spots were battered until the skin split...
"All right," Karthan grumbled. "It's not all going to make sense, though. Don't say I didn't warn you." He rolled his head slightly to the side, looking up at Uthmar out of one eye. "If Nataku gets damaged badly enough, the same damage starts to happen to Wufei, because they're linked. Wufei can use the link to mend Nataku's damage, by using himself as a pattern, but it doesn't work properly if he's been hurt too. I got pulled into the link by accident and Wufei had to use me as a pattern to fix himself and Nataku. He didn't want to, but I convinced him he had to. Some of the damage transferred to me over the link, but I figure it was a fair swap; I know what broken ribs feel like, and that blob demon gave me at least three, but they're fine now. And now I'm going to go to sleep."
"Uh-- you-- what do you mean, you were pulled into the link?!" Uthmar sputtered, wide-eyed. "What sort of link? Is it still there?!"
"I told you it wasn't all going to make sense, and I'm not going to try to explain it now," Karthan said through a huge yawn. "The link's gone, so don't panic. Oh, and Nataku does think, but it's not really alive..." He trailed off, eyes closing, and began to snore. Wufei was already fast asleep.
Faced with two soundly unconscious informants, one of whom couldn't speak enough Spearman to explain anyway, Uthmar stamped off to pace and mutter at his god.
He was creeping down a white hallway, shoulders pressed to the wall as he sidled along, shooting wary glances to the left and right. There were doors in the wall opposite him, one every few paces; he was close to the right number and...
...nobody had raised the alarm yet. He wasn't the hacker that Heero was, but he'd looped the security camera footage without any trouble. Now, if the guards would just oblige him by staying in their office and not wandering around the corridors...
Where am I? This hallway's too white... too even. It's shiny!
...he might be able to get Duo and get out before they knew anything was going on.
If this is a rescue mission, why haven't I got my axe?
Sliding to a halt at a corner, he took a deep breath, bringing his gun up in front of his face...
What's that?! And that's not my hand--
...then spun around the corner, aiming down the corridor.
Nobody was there, and he took two quick steps across to the right door. His hands were trembling, but he forced himself to stop. Duo would be fine, OZ hadn't had him for long and he was tougher than he looked...
Sliding a knife blade behind the keypad, he wrenched it out of the wall and cut the alarm wire. The contacts shorted as he jammed the knife into the right spot, the door opened and he stepped in.
The bruised, bleeding form on the floor looked up and grinned crookedly. "Hey, Wu-man, good to see you. Never mind the mess, I'm fine. Only hurts when I exist..."
The feeling of mingled relief and fury was so strong he nearly wept.
Then they were all sitting around the breakfast table. Heero and Trowa had cereal, Quatre had tea and toast, and Duo had bacon and doughnuts. Ridiculous thing to eat for breakfast, really...
This has to be a dream. But why am I dreaming about being Wufei?!
...but he was still bandaged up from the last mission, so they'd let him get away with it.
"You're going to get fat, sooner or later, Maxwell," he said bluntly, sitting down with a bowl of cornflakes.
"Yeah, right," Duo scoffed. "I've been eating like this for the last couple of years, and do I look fat to you? I don't think so."
"Of course you don't look fat," Heero muttered under his breath. "It's all in your head."
"Hmff?" the braided pilot muttered through a mouthful, frowning. "Wha-- oi!"
"Took you long enough to work it out," Heero said, smirking. "Proved my point--"
Half of Duo's doughnut bounced off Heero's head and landed in his cereal, splattering milk everywhere, and breakfast dissolved into chaos.
I think I'd like this Duo person. He and Gunnar would definitely get along.
Chaos on the battlefield, mobile suits and explosions everywhere, Heavyarms standing on a ridge and calmly mowing down the enemy...
Hells! What-- what--
...as they attacked, but there was always more coming. Sandrock and Deathscythe were beside him, supporting each other in close combat; Wing was in the air above them...
--four more like Nataku, and Wufei was with four friends, it makes sense. It's the only thing in this that does make sense!
...and the sky rained molten metal as the energy sword hacked OZ suits to pieces. Bullets rang off Nataku's armour and he spun, chopping the attacker down. He snapped brief replies to the voices on the comm, he fought and he fought well, but somehow his heart wasn't in it; although he swore at himself, he had to admit that he didn't want to be there. It was his duty to fight, but he'd rather be in space.
...is this how the gods see the world...?!
...drifting peacefully, weightless. He could be calm, here. Away from everybody... he could let down the mask that only Duo had bothered to look behind, and smile just because the Earth looked so beautiful. For just a few minutes, he could relax and not think about the war.
The sun peeked around the edge of the world below, and a sparkle in the distance caught his eye as the cluster of colonies at L4 reflected the light. Automatically, he estimated where the L5 colony should be and turned his head in that direction; he knew they wouldn't be visible, of course, they were still in the planet's shadow--
One bright spark became a massive explosion as his home colony disintegrated in flames.
Karthan woke up screaming.
* * * * *
The bonfires in the fields were finally dying down, stinking ashes swirling into the air and drifting across the village on the light breeze. One by one, the torchbugs in the trees to the south were lighting up again.
"One day," Uthmar growled into his beard, pacing up and down outside Cord's hut. "All this has happened in just one day! Two demons who aren't evil, one that was - Gods, that was disgusting - there's probably a whole damn temple full of Sharna's cultists and dog brothers to the south, and here I am with just six men! And one of 'em's managed to get himself linked to one of the damn demons, and I don't care if the link's gone now, I don't care if the demon's a good man and 'has style', the whole thing still makes me twitch!"
=*I noticed,*= Torframos said dryly.
"Not to mention that my god's sense of humour is getting more annoying by the minute--"
"--and he seems to be developing a callous streak," Uthmar snarled quietly, glaring upwards.
=*I am not! It was a mistake, I've admitted it, and it won't happen again. Now stop it!*= Torframos snapped. =*You've had a very bad day and it's upsetting, that's understandable, but giving yourself an ulcer won't help! Calm down!*=
"Oh, I'm calm," Uthmar seethed. "I'm very calm. I'm just bloody furious, that's all!"
=*What are you so furious about, Uthmar? You won. The forces of Light triumphed. The--*=
"Oh, shut up. You're starting to sound like Gunnar in a sarcastic mood."
=*Hmph. Gods have their troubles, too, you know,*= Torframos sniffed, and continued in syrupy tones. =*Here I am, stuck with an unappreciative Champion, when I could have chosen somebody who would treat it as the true honour it is. Sir Vaijon, for example. He would be composing an ode of praise about now, not getting in a snit.*=
Uthmar had to laugh. "Vaijon? That twit? He'd still be at Yithar's manor house, comparing bloodlines and jewelled sword hilts with his host."
=*Surely you wrong Sir Vaijon! He is a true knight.*=
"And an Almerhas of Almerhas, as he keeps pointing out, I know," the dwarf muttered, rolling his eyes. "All right, all right, you can stop now."
=*Pity. I was enjoying myself. What is upsetting you? The temple is certainly a problem, but you've never let bad odds really bother you before... and reinforcements are on the way.*=
"The temple's not really a problem. Gather up a big enough force, go in and clean it out... that's easy enough. It'll be messy, and we'll take casualties, but it's simple. What's bothering me is the things where either I can't do anything, or I don't know what I should do! Like Wufei and Nataku. My gut feeling is that they're allies. I want to trust them. But I don't know that I can trust them, and I have to be sure! And now there's this 'link' thing... even if it is gone, what sort of effect has it had on Karthan? How do I find out? And--"
A horrified cry from Cord's hut cut him off, and he bolted for the door.
* * * * *
It seemed to Duo that he'd been scanned, poked and prodded by every diagnostic machine known to man, and it was only 10 a.m. Now, he was lying on an examination table, wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, freezing his goosebumps off in the airconditioning, while he waited for Sally to come back and tell him his knee would be fine and he could leave.
The room was uncomfortably silent. Duo hadn't spoken unless he had to during all the tests; maybe he did have to have them done, even if it was only to shut Sally and the other pilots up, but he didn't have to like it and he was damn well going to sulk if he wanted to. Heero had been quiet, too, watching him with an odd, questioning expression. Trowa was being Trowa, which meant that since he hadn't had anything important to say, he hadn't said anything. That left Quatre to fill the conversational void with encouraging chatter and comments, and even he had given up.
"Quatre?" Heero said abruptly, standing up and reaching for Duo's long coat. "Could you go and find a blanket or something? Duo's cold." He draped the coat carefully over Duo and rubbed his arms through the fabric, raising a little warmth.
"Thanks," Duo muttered as Quatre ducked out into the hall. "This is one of the reasons why I hate hospitals. They always have the airconditioning cranked up like it's summer at the Equator outside."
"I think the temperature has something to do with the air purification systems they use," Trowa offered. "Maybe they should reheat it before it gets circulated."
Quatre bustled back in with a couple of cotton blankets, followed by Sally Po and a tall, thin, black-haired doctor. "You need blankets?" he asked, blinking dark eyes behind his glasses. "There are supposed to be blankets already on the shelf... oh, I see there are not. Most regrettable. The temperature in here is such that blankets are definitely needed if you are sitting around half naked for any length of time. I see that you avoided that instrument of psychological torture known as the patient gown, however; well done! You must tell me how you managed that, the nurses are really quite insistent..."
"Duo Maxwell, this is Doctor Modi, one of the top orthopaedic surgeons in the Earthsphere," Sally said politely as Duo sat up. "He'll be performing the surgery on your knee."
The bottom seemed to plummet out of Duo's stomach. "Surgery? What surgery? Come on, Sally, I just twisted it!"
"Perhaps that is all you did, Duo - may I call you Duo?" Dr. Modi said, setting his laptop down on a small wheeled table and moving it over next to his patient. "You managed to twist it in a singularly nasty way, however; not only did you tear your anterior cruciate ligament, you also ripped the meniscus. To do that, you must have popped your patella right around to the other side of your knee for a moment. I understand you fell off a ladder, and then again on some stairs?"
"Yeah, but-- I don't really need surgery, do I? How long will it take to get better if I don't have the surgery?"
"It won't," Modi calmly replied, peering over his glasses. "You really - ah - 'did a number on it'. The anterior cruciate ligament, also called the ACL, is quite important; it holds your knee joint in alignment and helps to keep your patella - the kneecap - in place. Without it, your knee will be massively weakened, it will have a nasty tendency to bend sideways at inconvenient moments, and your patella will move out of place and wear away at the other bones. If we do the surgery, however, you will be able to return to your normal range of activities within... hmmm... perhaps as little as four months. Wearing a knee brace, of course," he added, "but that, too, will be temporary."
Duo paled slightly, then swallowed. "Well... shit," he muttered.
"What does this surgery entail, exactly?" Heero asked tersely, one hand going out to cover Duo's.
"First, I should like to point out that this is quite a common surgery," Modi said, pecking at his laptop's keyboard and peering at the results onscreen. "Athletes do this sort of thing to themselves all the time and all the - er - 'bugs' were worked out of the operation a long time ago. What we do to fix it hasn't changed since Before Colony days, but we've refined the details of how we do it. Ah, here we are," he said happily, turning the laptop around so that the pilots could see.
"This is a three-dimensional image of your right knee that we've produced from the scan data," he continued, pulling a pen from his pocket and waving it at the screen. "The ACL goes from the left side of your tibia, here, and runs up and across to the right side of your femur, about a third of the way up, here. At least, it's supposed to. We'll take a braided carbon fibre replacement and fuse it to the bones in the proper places, like this." A tap on the keys produced a short animated sequence. "We'll clean up the torn meniscus while we're in there, fuse it together... that part will heal in no time. They used to fix this sort of injury by taking a piece from another ligament and screwing it to the bones, a rather alarming idea, but we've gone beyond that now. We'll use a couple of different treatments to stimulate healing, and you'll actually end up growing a new tendon through the carbon fibre matrix. Eventually, your body will absorb the carbon fibre and it'll be all you in there. Any questions?"
Duo swallowed again. "How long am I going to have to be in the hospital?"
"It's really up to you," Modi replied. "If there are no complications - and they aren't likely - we'll let you out as soon as you can bend your leg 90 degrees by yourself. Without using your hands, I should point out, since we've had patients try to cheat... um, that should be less than a week."
"What about after that?" Heero asked, squeezing Duo's hand as the braided teen relaxed slightly.
"Well, after you prove that you can bend your leg, we put you into an immobilising brace so you can't," Modi said sheepishly, still talking to Duo. "Sounds silly, I know, but it's the right thing to do. You go home and clump around on crutches like that for about a week or ten days. Then we unlock the brace and bend your leg again, which is really going to hurt, I'm afraid, and start you in physical therapy. If that goes well, you should be able to switch to a smaller brace after three months or so; another month or two later, and you'll only have to wear the brace if you're going to play sports or spend the day on your feet. At that point, physical therapy stops, and eventually, you'll be able to throw the brace away for good. 'Eventually' usually means 'about a year after you stop therapy', but it depends on a lot of factors. If you get lazy, or push yourself too hard too soon, you'll set yourself back."
"Pay attention, Duo," Sally said dryly. "You can't approach this the way you've handled every other injury in your life. If you try to act like you're not hurt, or speed up your therapy, you won't get better faster. This time, it doesn't work that way."
"I have a reasonably light caseload at the moment," Dr. Modi muttered, tapping at his laptop again. "I can fit you in... um... three days from now. How's that?"
Duo flopped back on the examination table and sighed. "Okay. If I've got to do this, sooner is better."
"It doesn't take very long," Modi said encouragingly, "and it's usually done with just a local anaesthetic--"
"Bad idea--" "No--" "That won't work--" Sally, Heero and Quatre closed their mouths and looked at each other.
"Oh," Modi blinked, confused. "Is there a problem?"
Trowa cleared his throat. "While we're sure Duo would stay still for the operation, he really doesn't like hospitals. He wouldn't enjoy it. Right, Duo?"
"I could handle it," Duo growled.
"Yes, but you don't have to," Sally pointed out. "And you'd be wound tighter than a violin string. I don't think you need the extra stress."
"Whatever," Duo snapped. "Why don't you guys plan my life, make all the arrangements, and just tell me when and where to show up?"
Quatre leaned over and lightly zotted Duo on the top of his head. "Knock it off," he advised, affectionately. "It's your decision. If you want to be awake for it, then you'll be awake, but don't expect us to keep our mouths shut if we think you'd be happier or better off doing something else. You speak up fast enough when you think we're doing the wrong thing."
"Duo, maybe being out would be the best thing," Heero said under his breath. "With your reflexes..."
Duo's eyes widened slightly as he considered what could happen if the local anaesthetic didn't quite work properly. If he felt an unexpected twinge of pain while he was stressed and reacted... "Good point," he muttered. "Sorry, guys."
"I will book you in for general anaesthetic, then, hmm?" Modi said, hitting keys. "If you come in at 7 a.m. we can get you prepped and into surgery by ten-thirty. You know not to eat for twenty-four hours, yes? No drinks after midnight. And no walking on that leg, use crutches if you must get around. As for the paperwork, we can take care of that today."
"Paperwork?" Duo asked.
"Yes, a basic medical history and payment arrangements."
"Oh, that's easy," Quatre said, glad to have something he could do. "I'll pay."
Heero glared. "I'll pay."
Duo sighed. "Gimme the paperwork, okay?" he asked Modi. "This could take a while..."
Twenty minutes later, Heero and Quatre exchanged one last glare.
"Half each then?"
"Hn." Heero nodded.
"Too late," Trowa said calmly. "We got tired of waiting. Duo's paying."
"Yeah," Duo said sourly, struggling into his jeans. "It's my knee, after all... and neither of you asked if I wanted you to pay. It's not like I'm hard up for money, you know."
"But Duo, it's really no problem... I want to--" Quatre stated.
Dr. Modi kept tapping away at his computer, oblivious, but everyone else turned to stare at Heero.
"...what did you say?" Duo asked, blinking.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have taken it for granted. I'll ask next time," Heero said seriously.
Slowly getting over his shock - Heero never apologises to anybody - Duo ducked his head, pretending to concentrate on pulling his jeans over the wrapping on his knee without disarranging it. "Hopefully, there won't be a next time," he muttered. "I'm certainly not planning to pop my ligaments very often, or anything like that."
Heero shrugged, looking away. "The next time something comes up that I should ask you about, then."
Sally was covering an amused, speculative smile with one hand as she looked back and forth between them, obviously forming her own conclusions. Only Quatre's long practice at staying politely unreadable during business negotiations was keeping his jaw from dropping, and Trowa wore a faint smirk as he picked up Duo's coat and held it for him to put on.
* * * * *
Karthan was sitting up at one end of the huge cupboard-bed, clutching at his chest and gasping for air, when Uthmar burst in.
"What is it?! What happened?!"
"They all died," Karthan said dazedly, staring straight ahead at nothing. "All of them, down to the youngest child... and they did it themselves! He's all alone..."
"Karthan? Karthan! Snap out of it!" Uthmar waved a hand in front of the other dwarf's staring eyes, and was vastly relieved when Karthan blinked and shook himself, seeming to come back to his senses.
"What's after being the problem, man?" Cord rumbled, standing next to his improvised pallet on the floor. There was a spare bed, a cot they'd brought in for Wufei to use, but neither Cord nor Naiya came close to fitting in it, so they'd offered it to Uthmar... for whenever he finally got around to going to bed. "I thought you two were fast asleep-- hey, now, will you look at that? He hasn't even twitched; I didn't think the lad was that tired..."
"He was dreaming," Karthan said, scrubbing roughly at his eyes with the back of his hand. "I was in there with him, and I saw--" He squeezed his eyes closed for a moment, concentrating, then shuddered and opened them again. "Wake him up, Cord," he said urgently. "He's still dreaming, and it's getting nastier."
Cord looked dubiously at the small demon, sleeping at the other end of the bed. He was lying limp and still, one hand open next to his head; then, the hand twitched, and he winced slightly, breath stuttering.
"Well, he doesn't look too peaceful," the giant hradani muttered, and reached out a hand towards Wufei's shoulder. "Wufei! Wake up, now, you're worritin' Karthan--"
Wufei gasped and jerked, opening his eyes, but it was obvious that he wasn't really awake; they were glassy and unseeing, looking straight through Cord. He muttered something incomprehensible in his own language, then relaxed, eyes closing as he slipped away again.
"I wonder what he said?" Uthmar whispered, half to himself.
"'They can't be dead'," Karthan translated, rubbing his forehead. "'They wouldn't die without finishing it.'" He sighed, dropping his hand, and smiled wryly at the Champion. "My apologies for the trouble this is probably going to cause, sir. It looks like I spoke too soon when I said the link was gone."
A little later, the four of them were gathered at the table-- Uthmar, Karthan, Cord and Naiya. The two dwarves looked a little ridiculous, propped up on cushions with their shoulders barely clearing the table top, but they weren't about to let it bother them.
"Are you sure you're up to discussing this now?" Naiya asked worriedly, passing around mugs of herbal tea. "You're looking livelier than you did earlier, but..."
"I'm not tired any more," Karthan assured her, looking faintly surprised. "I mean, I'm tired, but I'm not exhausted."
"That's good, because this explanation can't wait until morning any more," Uthmar growled. "What's going on?"
"I wish I knew," Karthan sighed, glancing back over his shoulder at Wufei's sleeping form. "I can tell you what it seems like to me, but I know I don't really understand it."
"I can't be worse informed than I am right now," the Champion pointed out dryly. "Any information will be an improvement."
"Right. Well... what happened just now... I was sharing Wufei's dream. I honestly thought the link just fell apart once the fight was over. I couldn't feel him and Nataku any more, and we couldn't understand each other, either, but I guess it was just... um... closed, but not cut. And when we both went to sleep, it opened up again. He was dreaming about the people he fought alongside in his homeworld, and their... uh... 'Gun-dams', that was the word. It was weird; I saw the dream from his point of view, and I could feel what he felt about what was happening. I got some of what he knew about the people and things in the dream, too. Nobody said 'Gundam' in his dream, and he didn't even think it, but he knew that was the right word so now I know it, too."
"'Gundams'," Naiya said slowly, as if she was tasting the strange word. "Does that mean demons like Nataku?"
"Wait here," she said abruptly, getting up and walking into the back storage room. She was back in seconds, clutching a cloth-wrapped bundle that opened to reveal a flat wooden box and a book. "Is this them?" she asked, opening the book and leafing through the pages, then pointing.
"Yes!" Karthan exclaimed, leaning forward. "That's Heero and Wing." Turning over the next few pages, he continued. "Duo and Shinigami... Trowa and Heavyarms... Quatre and Sandrock..." He turned over the next page, and almost choked.
"That's Meiran," he said slowly. "She wasn't in the dream, but... that's Meiran. Chang Meiran. She... she died." He looked up at the others, eyes wide. "She died in a field of flowers, and she was called Nataku first."
end chapter 13
[Mel is curled up on the sofa, eating an apple while she re-reads the latest chapter. The Gundam pilots and Ardeth Bey are all nervously watching the door that leads to the back of the house. Screams of rage and frustration and loud thumps can be heard from behind it.]
QUATRE: Um... Mel... what's wrong with Christy?
MEL (absent-mindedly): Nothing.
QUATRE: But it sounds like something's wrong!
MEL: Hm? [She listens for a moment.] Oh, that. She's having trouble with the new webpage, that's all.
WUFEI: New webpage? What do you need a new webpage for? Are you going to torment somebody else now, too?
MEL: No, just you guys. We ran out of room to torment you, you see, so we're getting a new site to move all the pictures to. Christy's setting up the layout and page design, stuff like that.
DUO: Sounds like it's not going well.
CHRISTY (from the study): AAAAAAGH! NOT like that, you bloody STUPID OBJECT! GAAAH!
MEL: She hates HTML.
HEERO (out of the body cast now): So why don't you help?
MEL: I can't HTML. If it comes to that, why don't you help?
HEERO: I'd rather die than help you two.
MEL: You'd rather die than do a lot of things, Hee-chan.
QUATRE: Surely there's something you can do...
MEL: Well... I can distract her for a minute and get her into a better mood, I think. Watch this! You were all hiding while we were writing, so you didn't see it last time.
[Mel holds up the latest chapter and starts quoting from it.]
MEL: "He'd rather be in... SPACE..."
[Christy bursts through the door and takes up a dramatic pose.]
CHRISTY & MEL: "...SPACE! The final frontier! These are the voyages of the starship NATAKU!"
[They both giggle for a while, then Christy wanders back out to keep HTMLing.]
WUFEI: You two are very sick people.
MEL: We know. [She goes back to reading.]